Smiley Lewis And Early Rock n’ Roll
There are controversies over what song marks the birth of rock’ roll. Rather than engage in a protracted debate or discussion, I thought it would be good to just take a look at one under-appreciated classic R&B song that seems to qualify as one of the first rock songs. I Hear You Knockin’ was written by Dave Bartholomew and Pearl King in 1955 and performed the same year by New Orleans musician Smiley Lewis.
It is definitely a lesser known progenitor of what sort of music would become popular during the magical year of 1955 with artists such as Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard and Elvis Presley all emerging onto a national stage performing early rock n’ roll.
Click here to listen to Smiley Lewis’ version of I Hear You Knockin’.
Few people are familiar with Smiley Lewis’ version of the song, as it was popular during a time when radio was segregated and R&B artists did not get their songs played on many stations. However the song did make it to number two on the Billboard R&B charts.
There are at least thirty other versions of the song by other popular artists, but I Hear You Knockin’ was really rescued from oblivion by the great Dave Edmunds when he covered the song in 1970 and it became a number one hit in the United States and England. Edmunds version is still played regularly on many classic rock stations, perpetuating the popularity of this catchy, R&B/early rock classic. Below is a video of an uncharacteristically wasted-looking Edmunds, lip-synching his hit in 1971 in front of a freaky looking audience that one youtube commenter noted, “I didn’t know the Manson Family had a variety show.”